Michie Mee, Canada’s First Lady of Hip-Hop (Know Your History Podcast)

In 1984, a legendary music club reopened up in Times Square. Under its original name of Latin Quarter, the nightclub became the place to go for live hip-hop music. Afrika Bambaataa, Big Daddy Kane, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Eric B & Rakim, The Jungle Brothers, and Queen Latifah are just a few of the notable acts you could catch there back in the mid to late 1980s.

Toronto was just starting to develop a hip-hop scene at this time as well. Up and coming rapper, Michie Mee knew she needed to go to the birth place of hip-hop culture to learn more about the music and establish some connections. She was only thirteen at the time.

“I got some fake ID, went to Latin Quarters to learn about hip-hop. That was the big place for everybody who wanted to know about hip-hop. There was KRS-One there. There was Scott La Rock, that’s who I really met and I was trying to prove to him that we were from Canada and there was some hip-hop in Canada. It’s like, ‘Shut up, there’s no hip-hop in Canada. You don’t rap in Canada. And you’re a female, you really gonna?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ and I started spitting in front of Latin Quarters. He was like, ‘Ayo Kris!’ and he called people over and that’s how I met BDP at Latin Quarters. That was when my career really took off.”

And take-off it did. Michie Mee was the first Canadian hip-hop artist to be signed to a major label in the United States. She was a huge influence to the young rappers in Toronto at the time and helped establish the Canadian hip-hop scene that continues to flourish today.

Maestro Fresh Wes, one of Canada’s earliest and biggest hip-hop stars has nothing but praise and admiration for her. He put it this way, “Without Michie, there’d be no me. Understand what I’m saying? That’s Michie Mee.”

Welcome to Know Your History, I’m your host Chase March and, for the next half hour, we are going to celebrate the career and influence of Canada’s first rapper, Michie Mee. Stay tuned to DOPEfm all night long as we bring you exclusive interviews and mixsets from the Women in Hip-Hop as we celebrate International Women’s Day, DOPEfm style.

Download this episode of Know Your History for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading.

Let’s start off today’s show with Jamaican Funk, Canadian Style. This is the title track of Michie Mee and LA Luv’s debut album from 1991.

That was Jamaican Funk, Canadian Style by Michie Mee and La Luv. It was the first major label release from a Canadian hip-hop artist. It’s interesting to see how she celebrates her heritage with not only her musical style, but also with the title of her album. There aren’t a lot of MCs that are comfortable doing that in this day and age. Some rappers hide their Canadian identity in seeking out international audiences.

Kardinal Offishall is currently signed to an American label and he has a lot in common with Michie Mee.
“I remember her coming to Flemington Park on time and we were all little kids . . . We didn’t even look at her like she was a female MC, she was just dope period. Michie Mee is probably one of the biggest influences in terms of my style of music.”
Canadian urban-music mogul, Ivan Berry had this to say about Kardinal, “He had this thing, like Michie, the perfect blend of what a Caribbean immigrant was living in Canada.”

Toronto celebrates the Carribbean make up of its city every year with a festival known as Caribana. People from all over the world come to this event but most importantly for us, it established a strong connection between the birthplace of hip-hop, New York, and its new home in the north, Toronto.

Michie Mee described it this way on OTA live. . .

“A lot of people in The Bronx, a lot of people in Brooklyn, gravitated to Toronto, mainly because we had Caribana. Caribana was on University Street so a lot of people from Eastern parkway would come here and celebrate the Caribana because ours was just a little bit more interesting than theirs.”

“Following that Caribbean trail came hip-hop. Kool Herc is a West-Indian man and when he formed it in The Bronx, he brought in that dancehall element and of all the sound systems setting up, which became block parties. When he was setting up the block parties, the only thing that would come out and make the difference was, people would come out and rap instead of deejaying. And everything just changed. And those same people gravitated toward Caribana when it was on University Street back in 1984-85.”

Michie Mee was born in St. Andrew, Kingston, Jamaica and her family moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada when she was young. By the age of 13, Michie was crafting her unique style by combining rap with Jamaican Creole or Patois. She quickly gained attention from both American and Canadian audiences. During rap battles, she would switch from rapping to reggae. It was completely fresh and original at the time and it would leave her competitors stunned and the audience in an uproar.

Since Toronto was relatively close to the birthplace of hip-hop culture, Michie Mee would travel to New York frequently. It was there that she would meet legendary Scott La Rock and KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions. They came up to Toronto for a concert and introduced her to the crowd, which was huge for a Canadian artist to have these hip-hop heavyweights in her corner.

“I was actually part of getting them into Canada and introducing them to Ron Nelson. I said, ‘There’s these two guys out there that really do hip-hop. They had a deal with Bill Blast and were Boogie Down Productions. They wanted to come to Canada. So I made the call and Ron was like, ‘Boogie Down Productions! Okay, we’re gonna have Canada versus . . . and they had no idea who they were going to put me against. I just wanted to be a part of it.

At that age, you didn’t know you were promoting or connecting the dots so to speak. You didn’t know that history was going to be written. You didn’t know Boogie Down Productions was gonna be huge and Scott La Rock was gonna pass. All I knew was that I had a dream and they were helping that dream come alive from The Bronx, from Manhattan, right here in Canada. Before hip-hop went down south, to them, they knew they had to come to Canada to really place that foundation. They really came North before they went south.”
That’s pretty amazing right there. The legendary, BDP came to Canada early in their career. They were, in fact, influenced by the first lady of Canadian Hip-hop. Lead rapper, KRS-One regularly blends reggae with his rap style and it’s really interesting to know that he picked up this style from Michie Mee. You can hear the influence in the hit song, “The Bridge is Over.”

A Canadian connection to the classic battle Bridge Wars. How about that?
Boogie Down Productions were an early supporter of the Canadian hip-hop scene. They even produced and released a Canadian compilation album entitled “Break’n Out.” The lead single of this project was Michie Mee and LA Luv’s track “Elements of Style” in which KRS-One introduces the track.
That was “Elements of Style” by Michie Mee and LA Luv. It was their first single ever and was released in 1987 as part of compilation album “Break’n Out.” The entire project was produced by BDP and that song garnered a lot of attention both in the United States and Canada. The Canadian duo then appeared on a few other compilation albums before landing their major label debut album in 1991.
Michie Mee was riding high and it looked like she would rule the Canadian Hip-hop scene for some time. But fate had other plans for her and it would be nine years before we’d see a second album from her. Instead, she took some time away from the microphone to have a family. It must’ve been a tough decision for her.
“Becoming a mother is for real. If you have this baby, is this baby going to ruin your chances from what you started out and left university for? Is this the way to go? You leave university to do music, and then you have a baby, and that interferes with your music, so I just had to get my priorities straight.”
“My first love, and my true love, is the music. And then I had my son. He’s the greatest love of my life, and I’m glad I didn’t take his.”
When she did come back to the music, what she was doing on the microphone didn’t change but the music behind it did.
“My bass player / engineer who did all my hip-hop records, Walter, called me down to Wellesley Studio. They said they had a track for me to go on. When I heard it, that had guitars like crazy. When they heard me on that track, I was in. When we took it on its feet, the audience and the crowd we drew was crazy.”
“It was a whole new ball game across Canada and there was a lot of love. I was still spitting. I was still doing reggae. To me, the music was different, but the fact that they understood me, and when I said certain things, they jumped with me. I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter about the music, it is the writing and it is what I’m saying. And you do relate because you jump the same times I want you to jump. They’d never seen it. They never heard it before. Imagine seeing it for the first time. I did more rock records in terms of albums and toured more with rock than I did with hip-hop.”

Michie Mee also went into show business. She’s starred in movies such as “In Too Deep” alongside LL Cool J and Omar Epps. He was also in “My Baby’s Daddy” with Eddy Griffin, and in “Chicks With Sticks” with Jason Priestly. She’s appeared in several TV shows and had the starring role in the CBC series “Drop the Beat.”

Her first love is the music and she returns to it again and again. In 2004 she joined forces with a group of local artists including Maestro Fresh Wes, Thrust, and several R&B singers to form the Peace Prophets. The group released this single for charity entitled “Drop the Chrome.”

Michie Mee was the first Canadian rapper to get signed. You just heard her on that posse cut for charity. I hope you’ve been with us for this entire episode as we have celebrated the career of the first lady of Canadian hip-hop, Michie Mee.

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day all night here on DOPEfm and we’ll be featuring exclusive interviews, mixsets, and a roundtable discussion focusing on the Women in Hip-Hop.

This is Chase March signing off on another edition of Know Your History. Thanks for tuning in!

Download Know Your History: Episode 27 – A Spotlight on Michie Mee

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